Next Council meeting

The next Full Council meeting will take place on 15 January 2020.

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COUNCIL MEETING 15 JANUARY 2020

12 PUBLIC QUESTION

(i) Question by a member of the public to Councillor Rowlands, Portfolio Holder for Community, Leisure and Sport

"Following the petition to Full Council on 20 February 2019 for Alban Way Lighting from Camp Road to Orient Close and the subsequent unanimous decision by the Scrutiny Committee to support lighting from Camp Road to Cottonmill Lane, with Hertfordshire County Council having agreed last month their A414 Corridor Strategy which itself includes improvements to the Alban Way, can we have an update on St Albans District Council efforts to secure appropriate lighting of the Camp Road to Cottonmill Lane stretch of the Alban Way?"

Answer

“Discussions are underway with County Council officers. We are awaiting a response. We will ensure the questioner is informed of the outcome.”


(ii) Question by a member of the public to Councillor Young, Portfolio Holder for Resources

“As a long-term resident of Harpenden, and having spent forty plus years in the property sector (prior to retirement, as chief executive of two property plcs and chairman of another), I have followed with interest the Council’s proposal to purchase the Harpenden Estate, comprising retail and residential units on the Harpenden High Street.

The background to my question is:

- It has become apparent that the proposed purchase price, before costs, can be worked out as circa £17.6million which would require a loan of 106% inclusive of costs at the usual rate, being the £18.7million shown in the Council’s Budget papers recently released.
- It also appears from the same Budget papers, that the net income projected from the Harpenden Estate is £90,000 p.a., which is a mere 0.5% of the capital invested.
- The media carries almost daily news items and comment on the deterioration of bricks and mortar in the retail sector, especially in traditional High Street locations. Our own High Street is showing those signs with four properties at the north-west end now empty. This results in downward pressure on rents and capital values, further accentuated by forced sales by openended property funds.
- The Council’s twin policies of:
a) generating income for the Council, and
b) strengthening the Council’s ability to be business-friendly by ensuring that relatively small, lowcost retail and office units remain available to local businesses; and, in particular, being prepared to let to local businesses at lower rents, or to grant higher incentives to attract target retailers: Page 10 are in conflict. Lower rents for some tenants impair value and future income, driving down comparable evidence for future lettings generally, and for open market rent reviews. The result would be lower income and a fall in capital values.
- There are proposals for a retail development at Junction 10 of the M1;
- The general malaise in the sector plus some forced institutional vendors has created a buyers’ market, which would suggest a capital value of sub £14million.
Therefore, in the light of the above, with the risk that falling rents could put the projected poor return in doubt, and also erode the capital value/produce a deficit, WHY IS THE COUNCIL PROPOSING THIS INVESTMENT AT A VERY FULL PRICE?”

Answer

“The figure in the budget is below the total net income we anticipate receiving from the acquisition in 2020/21. It is based on average annual income over the first 10 years at the highest interest rate that Cabinet agreed they would be prepared to go ahead at. It also assumes a higher than average number of empty retail units.

Interest rates are not currently this high. At current rates the 10 year average income per year would be circa £146,000 assuming the same higher than average number of empty units. The actual interest rate will be fixed at the point the loan is taken out.

This is a very long-term investment that will help the Council fill the growing budget gap in future years. Finances are very tight and we need to find alternative sources of income given the funding reductions from central government.

This is an investment primarily for place-shaping purposes and to benefit the area. However, as an investment we will be very careful of capital prices and any action that would impair the value.

Possible approaches to supporting local businesses were outlined to the Audit Committee on 12 November 2019. In line with the recommendation from the Audit Committee, a short policy on the approach to granting rent concessions or the use of restrictive user clauses across all of the Council’s assets (including those in the Housing Revenue Account) will be developed to ensure that the approach used by officers matches the policies of the Council’s political administration.”


COUNCIL MEETING 4 DECEMBER 2019

11A. PUBLIC QUESTION

Question by a member of the public to Councillor Rowlands, Portfolio Holder for Community, Leisure and Sport

“In the Background Briefing Note to Full Council on 20th February on the Petition for Alban Way Lighting from Camp Road to Orient Close, it identified "public safety-related improvements which could reasonably be made, within the next few months" to the petition stretch of the Alban Way that "will be funded from current budget provision" of

• A general cutting back of scrub and foliage along the stretch, at least 1.0m from the path edge.
• Cutting back some of the tree canopy, to increase natural light levels along the path.

When will this be done?”

Answer

“The section of the Alban Way between Orient Close and Camp Road is covered in the associated Green Space Action Plan. That Plan includes actions to undertake scrub vegetation, coppicing and tree works.

A volunteer group working with the Countryside & Rights of Way Service (formerly Countryside Management Service) will tackle the scrub and foliage removal works in the new year. The Countryside & Rights of Way team have also been in contact with specialist contractors to manage the tree works.

Both actions will be completed by February 2020. This deadline is recognised as being before the start of the bird nesting season. The Council has also given permission to the Fire Service to undertake their chainsaw training in suitable wooded areas along the Alban Way.”



Date of last review: 15 January 2020

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